Taunton Titans
March 23, 2024
Darlington Mowden Park
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Taunton Titans 22 Darlington Mowden Park 20


Taunton Titans 22 Darlington Mowden Park 20

800 spectators were treated to an entertaining and exciting game by what must be classed as a very determined set of players on both sides.  The game finished as it started with the Titans battering the Darlington line the difference being that the fine margins at the end were more productive than those at the beginning.  The game management at the end was different and the mistakes completely eradicated.

Taunton came out of the blocks with determination and purpose and really attacked the Darlington line Darlington in desperation gave away 3 penalties in seven-minutes and a fourth on the eight-minute mark.  The Titans were clinical with their lineout and maul but Darlington defence held firm. Mistakes by the Titans allowed Darlington to clear their line and against the run of play they were able to score the opening try.  The Titans attacked again from kick off and the continuing penalty count was building up against Darlington with them receiving a yellow card on 22-minutes. The Titans exploited their advantage and with a good overlap Oli Massy-Birch was able to show his electrifying pace to level the scores.  The Titans scrum started to show it's dominance with both Toots and “man of the match” Ben Oliphant Thompson acting as first receiver and driving at the heart of the Darlington defence.  The lively Connor Banks always at the breakdown to recycle the phases the Titans were putting together.  However, Darlington were able to force the errors in their dogged defence and showed just how dangerous they were if allowed to give the backs the ball.  It was no surprise when still only with 14 players they burst through the middle to be stopped short of the line, set up the ruck and go over for the try and the lead.  The very strong wind denied the conversion, lifting the ball wide of the posts.  Taunton went back on the attack and with just two-minutes of the half left the Titans centre Joe Elsworth made the break to race through and score under the posts. Frankie Diaz-Dart converted and the Titans had the half time lead.

At the beginning of the second half the Titans set up an attacking move only to give away a penalty for crossing.  With the wind at their backs Darlington opted for the penalty with success and they now took a one-point lead.  This seemed to give Darlington some impetus and they were gaining more possession and but for some outstanding tackles by the Titans centres and Oscar Stewart on the wing Darlington could have extended their lead. Darlington tried to get the ball to their outstanding wing  who, with ball in hand, looked very quick and dangerous but Oscar stuck to his task very well and stopped him on each occasion.  A superb break by Deago took him from his own 22 to the Darlington 22 only to be caught.  Back came Darlington and this time the Titans gave away a penalty and received a yellow card. The next ten-minutes were tough but the seven in the Titans pack held their own and carried on with their domination. However, in the last minute of their 14-player period an overlap came for the Darlington fullback to score his second try of the afternoon which was converted to give Darlington an eight-point lead.

The game seemed to be ebbing away from the Titans but with just six-minutes of the game left, the body language and determination of the players changed.  It may have been the announcement which came over the speaker saying that the Warriors had just won not only the game but the league as well with two games to spare. It may have been that Darlington were having to defend and giving away penalties.  It may have been outstanding captaincy and game management, or even all of these things.  They saved the best until last. tap and go from the penalties with Connor Banks getting his hands on the ball very quickly and looking for and taking opportunities. Two minutes left and spectators leaving, Oscar Stewart in for a well-deserved try.  Three points in the game, a minute left, back came the Titans, more penalties, more phases and yet another penalty.  The calming influence of the “father” of the side Vaea Taione, getting the players in position, taking the tap himself and what a drive, back came the ball and a critical period of no mistakes, for Elvis (Vaea) to finish off what he started and score the try.  Twenty-two-points, the final whistle, the bonus point try and the win.  A superb day at the office for this group of players.

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